The Pune Phataka

The last time I visited Pune was a decadeand half ago.
Around that time, Hum Aapke Hain Kaun was still running in Liberty.
Around that time, Sunny Deol had natural hair and was winning National Awards.
Around that time, Azhar was captain of the Indian team and Vinod Kambli was the next big thing.
Around that time, baggy pants were considered the in thing.
Around that time, Star Sports was called Prime Sports, Star Plus was all English and Baba Sehgal ruled MTV and Channel V.
Around that time, Narasimha Rao was running the country and Rahul baba was probably running around trees with his Colombian girlfriend.
What I am saying is that 15 odd years is enough for a lot of change to happen. Logically, I should have expected the cultural capital of Maharashtra to change too. However this is Pune, the pride of Maharashtrians, the centre of the grreat Maratha rule and the home of the famous Puneri Paatyas. For a city with a rich history of over 4 centuries, a city proud of its 4 centruies plus history, 15 years is peanuts. So not much change was expected.

Could not be more wrong.

The Pune of the early 90s was a sedate city with not many avenues of entertainment. It was a senior citizen city in that quite a few of retires, well, retired to this city. Every afternoon, the city came to a standstill since it was time for the afternoon siesta. And the people could be rude. Which is symbolized by the writing on the famous paatyas. Google Puneri Paatyas, get a person fluent in Marathi translate it for you (if you are not Marathi versed) and then lie back and marvel at the sharp wit and “do not give a shit” attitude of the Puneri shopkeeper.

The Pune of 2010 is vastly differant. Due to the IT explosion, a lot of business has come here. This has led to the city getting a sort of facelift. The place has become a virtual phataka. I counted around 9 eateries of different genres in and around my hotel. The mall next to the hotel has a food court and a swanky Big cinema multiplex. The crowd is young. The air was full of energy.

However do not forget the centuries old history. Some things still are the same. People still seem to get out to have breakfast at 8 in the morning. The pace is not breakneck like Mumbai. The quality of life is not compromised by the increase in professionalism. Senior citizens are still around and seem to have fun. I saw some of them playing chess in a CCD. Perfect mix of the old and the new. And the paatyas still remain glorious though few. And good old Chitale Bandhu still shuts down during siesta time.

Pune seems to have assimilated the winds of change rather than getting bogged down by it. I wish that Mumbai coud learn a little from its neighbour. Pune does not seem to be a bad place to live in.


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Blog on temporary sabbatical due to too much work. And lack of net access.
Will be back this week. With stories on my first ever overseas visit. Dubai is a fascinating place and merits a long post.
Till then, my Twitter page is there for your entertainment.

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The filmy series – 1 Tridev

I love masala films. People may call them bloated or trash or a melodramatic collage of disjointed scenes full of song and dance setpieces. However I have grown up on them and am fond of them however contrived and illogical they may turn up to be.
When I was around seven years old, there were no film channels. Doordarshan had a monopoly over the airwaves. Our evenings were spent watching “Aamchi Maati Aamchi Maansa” and when we were lucky, “Giant Robot”. There were no multiplexes. Theatres were supposed to be occupied by the rowdies and we were forbidden from going there (My first film on theatre was Sholay in a matinee show…post on that later). You can say that watching films during my early years was tough.
In 1989, my father bought home a VCR (no CD players then). This machine bought the movies to our homes. Of course Doordarshan used to show films every Saturday and Sunday. However they were mostly old films of the 60s and 70s. Through the VCR, we could see movies that had just released (then there was no funda of films being released on CD/video cassette after the theatre run had ended.). The first movie we saw on the VCR is the one which I have chosen to start this small series on my favourite masala Hindi flicks – Tridev.

Paap se dharti hili...

Paap se dharti hili...

The story of the film is the basic heroes fighting against the evil smuggler flick with some twists. The film opens with a dramatic voice over by Naseeruddin Shah. “Naseer who” was my question to the parents. “Arre he is a famous art film actor”, was their response. I was to know later that Mr. Shah is one of the greatest actors with some of the finest films in his repertoire. But for a seven year old, he was just the good looking, well built dude with an awesome moustache. Once the credits roll we are introduced to the main villain (the late great Amrish Puri at his menancing best) conveniently sharing with his henchmen (and us) the mission statement and key objectives of Bhujang and Co. The best masala films are those which are easy to understand. We are supposed to leave our brains at homes, you see (or if you are watching on VCR, shut them off) and just enjoy.

Then we have the entry of the “1st Dev”, Sunny Deol. This was Sunny in his pre “dhaai kilo ka haath” phase when he was known as just a good looking action star and not the “One Man Army with the glass shattering voice pitch” that he is considered now. Hence, here we mercifully have Deol with the decibel level down. Deol throws his punch in the first scene itself showing us all that he is an incorruptible police officer. Cue celebrations over his bravery where we are introduced to the Police Commissioner, Deol’s judge father (who you know is going to get conked off), other sundry family characters and the love interest (Madhuri Dixit before her “Numero Uno” phase). We then have the entry of the 2nd Dev – Jackie Shroff (when he was handsome and bereft of a double chin). Here the film slightly deviates from the pattern giving Shroff an anti hero persona making his character very interesting (of course, the character straightens out in the second half. It is a masala film!!). Shroff is shown as the black sheep with his father, the Commissioner (Anupam Kher) disapproving of him. Introductions of the main characters (bar the 3rd Dev) over, the film goes into auto mode with the hero fighting against the smugglers catching one of them (Dalip Tahil as the phirangi) and taking him into court. However, the smuggler has an ace up his sleeve. He frames the poor chap and makes it seem like he is the rotten one!! To top it off, he makes his father pass the judgement. To top that top off, he gets the dad killed with us having to endure the scene of Sunny paji crying holding dear daddy’s feet as he “hangs” in there (atrocious pun. Sorry).
Poor Sunny paji is transferred to a small village. Cue entry of the 3rd Dev (Naseeruddin Shah). He is the “gaon ka chaila” who woos an actress shooting in their village (Sonam. How many remember her?) and gets a bit part in the film wherein he sings the legendary song “Oye Oye”. I remember the craze that song created. Pity the song was a rip off of a Gloria Estefan song. However, there was no cable TV and the chori was no “pakdofied”.

Rhythm Is Gonna Get .... sorry, Oye Oye!!

Anyways, Dev No. 1 and 3 clash over a supposed crime. Sunny Paji gets to know of Oye boy’s innocence. Oye man’s father was a freedom fighter turned school master (ahh, that old masala film symbol of morals) who was killed by a dacoit who turns out to be our smuggler (Inexplicable coincidence No.1!!). The two become chums. However, how could a masala film go on without causing more misery for our heroes. Sunny paji is woken up mid sleep by the goons of Bhujang led by, shock, gasp, Dev No. 2!! They proceed to tie him up and burn his house (why cannot they just shoot him up and then burn the house?). Dev No. 2 throws a knife at Dev No. 1 giving him a way to escape (and us the hint that he ain’t bad after all). By the way Dev No. 2 became part of Bhujang’s gang after saving his brother. There he is united with his love interest (Mrs. Azharuddin now, Sangeeta Bijlani then) who has her own agenda. Anyways, Oye boy thinking his friend being dead goes to Mumbai to take revenge (without knowing who killed his chum. Our heroes do not plan ahead). However Sunny paji cannot be killed (this was true even then) He also promises himself (and us) to wreak vengeance. Interval!! Till now, your brain is spinning with so much happening that you just cannot think. Hence the phrase “Leave your brains out”.
In Mumbai, Oye boy runs into who else, but the actress (In a city of millions, for such an improbable thing to happen, you gotta be in Bollywood universe). He is appointed as her bodyguard by her politician father (another masala film symbol – but of corruption) who is a close firend of, shock, gasp, Bhujang (Inexplicable coincidence no. 2). Sunny paji meanwhile becomes a cabbie (how he arranged for a cab and a taxi driver permit when he is supposedly dead is something which should not be asked). Sunny paji does wreck vengeance and leads to the villains getting miserable this time. An action masala film is always about misery. In the first half the good guys are miserable. In the second half, the baddies get miserable. He meets Jackie in one of his misery inducing mission while a Ms. Azharuddin item song is going on (kids, before Shilpa Shetty came on to loot UP and Bihar in Shool, it was the duty of the heroines to shake their booty thereby creating some major continuity issues. In the pre climax song, we have Madhuri madam dancing in skimpy attire while she is clad in Punjabi dresses all this while in the movie. Very inconsistent. Par kya kare, janta ki demand hai).

3 Deviyans - In item song garb.

Jackie explains to Sunny (and us) that he is eating Bhujang and Co. from the inside and they both join hands. The baddies are almost bankrupted by these two and have to resort to looting a bank. There they are engaged by the twosome in a shootout. Present in the bank is Oye boy and his actress. Nasserji had overheard the robbery scheme and is out to show the actress the “kaali kartoot” of her would be husband (well, she is engaged to one of Bhujang’s son against her wishes.). Why Naseerji would want to put her life at risk just to prove a point is not to be asked. In the shootout, Bhujang’s bachcha is killed and a disconsolate Bhujang sets up a meeting with Sunnyji. There all the secrets are revealed to everyone but us (since we already know them). The 3 Devs finally meet up together. Bhujang though thinks up a dastardly scheme wherein he gets the Devs arrested (through the politician) and kidnaps the Commissioner (remember him?) and his troop. The scene is set for the Dev – cop transfer i.e. the climax. The aforementioned item song plays out and meanwhile the Devs escape. It is a good strategy of the director to have the story progress even while the song goes on. That way, no time for the audience to even contemplate thinking.
Cue the climax. Fighting starts. Sunny paji on a horse. Jackie on a bike. Naseer with a dastardly sword. From where they collected these items is a mystery. Three against the entire Bhujang and Co. Still you have the good boys winning. because the villains suffer from the climax syndrome. Their aim goes bonkers with the heroes dodging even the close range shots. They forget to attack the good guys together. They basically through their actions yell “aa Bail mujhe maar!!”. Which the goodies proceed to do. In the end we have Bhujang being punched by our 3 Gods while the Naseer voiceover bellows. The baddie is put out of is misery. The end.

While full of loopholes, coincidences and inconsistencies, Tridev is a real fun watch. The pace is fast and the film has a sleek look. It was supposed to be one of the slickest films produced till then. The acting by the cast was serviceable. The three main leads were good in that they actually made you care for them. Naseeruddin Shah in his first corny role (he had played the lead in an earlier masala film,Jalwa but that was more a Hollywood style film with him having to show some real acting chops) For a seven year old kid like me who was not yet exposed to the marvel that was the Terminator films, Tridev remained the benchmark against which all the other action films were judged. Well, until I saw the film I would talk about in the next installment of this, the filmy series.


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The inscrutable bunch

– A player who has made retiring and unretiring a hobby of sorts.
– A player accused of tampering the pitch / ball / both who is appointed captain.

Read the rest here.

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World Cup Hangover – And a poem on the eight limbed dude.

The World is over and I am missing it already. I am sure many who followed the World Cup must be doing the same. For those still unsure about it, here are some pointers to determine that you are missing the World Cup:
1) At the stroke of midnight, you reflexively change the channel to ESPN (if in India). I did it yesterday and got momentarily confused by the absence of foot kicking ball or melodramatic reactions to defensive tackles.
2) You realize that you cannot sleep till 2.30 AM in the night. You try and try hard but your brain responds to your pleas for mercy with “we got some footie to watch”.
3) You miss the sound of bees going on all out war. After bearing the sound of vuvuzelas for a month, you realize that you will be missing it (It has been banned in the 2014 World Cup by the way.)
4) You have to search for a new topic to discuss with your friends and colleagues. With friends, it is easier. With colleagues, it is not especially when you have just joined the company.
5) When you see a rickshaw driver try to overtake your vehicle a little dangerously, you almost yell, “Offside!!”
6) You compare your naughty and unpredictable son/dau ghter/nephew/niece to the Jabulani.
7) You still connect Shakira to Waka Waka rather than “hips”
8) You get even more pissed while having to endure ads between overs in a cricket match.
9) You still root for Paraguay to win. (and have nightmares about what would happen if Argentina had won)

Yesterday night was especially difficult for me. To spend the time, I composed (rather decomposed) a poem on the world’s most talked about aquatic animal:

You will find him in a small tank in Germany
He lives his life in perfect harmony

The name of the dude is Paul
These days everyone knows him, those who dig football.

They make him choose between sides two,
They see who he goes to, ignores he who

Ignored by him were those who eventually lost,
Everyone prayed that Paul chooses their team, at any cost

Not many fortune tellers have such a streak
They all scratch their heads, and think of him as a freak.

Many want to kill him, many think ill of him, in vain,
He will always have his well wishers in good ol’ Spain

In all this melee, in all this hype,
Paul must be thinking what is the big fuss,
They gave me two bowls of food, and I just choose one,
I ain’t some glutton; I am just a normal octopus.

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Some thoughts about the footie World Cup

If I have to tell you that the 2010 edition of the World Cup played between football players representing their countries (not clubs) is going on and in fact reaching an intriguing climax, then either you have been living in forced captivity deprived of any contact with the outside world or you hate football thoroughly. So yes, the World Cup is on and I am hooked as are so many of you.

Before I go on with the main topic, I would like to state that I am not crazy about football like I am about cricket. I like to watch it only when countries are playing each other for the 4 year tournaments like the WC and the Euro. I do not believe in the club system because it is so transfer driven (a player can play for team A one year and then for team B the next year) that the passion behind following a particular player is diluted. That is my view and I do not expect others to subscribe to it. However I love the WC system of football which accommodates 32 teams and still produces very few dud matches (ICC, please take note). Ok, explanation over. On to the thoughts:

– Ever since I started following the football World Cup, every second WC has been held in an emerging market (US – 1994, SK – Japan 2002 and SA – 2010) with the middle WCs held in the primary markets (France – 1998, Germany – 2006, Brazil – 2014). If the same is deliberate, it is a nice way of increasing popularity in the new markets and at the same time keeping your current customers excited. It is this which makes me believe that a World Cup hosted by India is not far off (if FIFA is doing this deliberately). Think about it – emerging economy, football crazy people in the millions and emerging corporate support. Like hell, FIFA is going to ignore India for long. Indian football talent being up to the mar is immaterial.

-Africa has given this World Cup a distinct flavour (not just vuvuzelas, will come to it later). For one, the thin air compounded by the Jabulani ball’s extra lightness has made it difficult for teams to time the ball, or so they say. People are blaming the Jabulani solely for the inconsistent flight of the ball. No one is talking about the air. I find that confounding. As if all the commentators and players have been paid to criticize the Adidas manufactured ball. New form of ambush marketing?

-The exuberance and the enthusiasm of the spectators have added to the tournament. The World Cup has been managed really well, something not surprising since South Africa has made a hobby out of organizing sporting tournaments without a hitch (IPL2 was executed in SA in just a month’s notice. Cannot get better than that)

– It is not that only the Saffers have gone crazy. The rest of the world has also gone bonkers. We have octopuses playing the role of fortune tellers and doing a good job of it. So good that it is recieving death threats for it efforts. We have lingerie models vowing to run around naked if her team (Paraguey, for the info of the people under the rocks) won the World Cup (her team crashing out does not seem to have any effect it seems. NSFW!!)

– Before the WC started, people had mixed opinions about the vuvuzelas. Now there seems to be only one opinion i.e. to ban them. One can understand the sentiment. The sound of the ‘zelas takes some (rather, lots of) time to get used to. When I heard it for the first time, I swear I thought that a swarm of bees had attacked the stadium. Inspite of this, I believe that people are too hasty in writing it off. The vuvuzelas lend a distinctly South African flavour to the going on. Football in every continent and every country has a distinct voice. South Africans have made the vuvuzela their voice. Banning it would hurt the very people who have made the tournament such a success. FIFA again showed good thinking by squashing all demands to ban them. ICC, are you taking notes?

– The main learning from this World Cup according to me is the same one which has been repeated time and again but still is not followed – Matter over hype. We had stars like Ronaldo and Rooney flopping like anything. The hype balloon that was England burst and spread a huge stink. The hype balloon (literally as well) that was Maradona saw his radical vision get whacked the first time his team played a properly organized opponent. Highly paid stars got into ego fuelled clashes with their coaches. In the meantime, the teams which were tightly managed with no standout prima donnas did their work quietly and flourished.

– It is a travesty of justice that the two best teams, Spain and Germany played each other in the semi finals rather than the finals. The German team was made up of products of their youth system and a few stalwarts like Klose. They mixed typical German solidity with an unexpected flair which was beautiful to watch. Spain made entirely of La Liga players with Barcelona dominating are playing in typical Barcelona style – steady possession based play intended at wearing down the opponents. Sounds boring, but when you have chaps like Iniesta (saw him the first time, became a fan instantly) carrying out sudden and beautiful raids into the opposition half, you cannot complain much.

– The real surprise packet of this tournament has been the Dutch team. Not many call this side as good as the fabled Dutch teams of the late 70s. Heck, they could not even qualify in 2002. They have been a little lucky to reach this far (again, Spain and Germany should have met in the finals) but you require such luck to go this far. Only thing to complain is the blatant diving they did in the semis.

– Speaking of diving, this World Cup has seen a little too much of them. So much that any time a player falls down, the others around seem a little hesitant before approaching the fallen one. These footballers will give the Bollywood stars a run for the money in the theatrics department if we go by their acting skills on the fielding.

That is it for now. More thoughts on the football after the finals. Here is hoping for a good last couple of matches where the teams loosen up even more and give us some great moments to cherish.


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Short Story – The Atom Bomb.

“Aga Baaai!!”
She looked down at the kitchen floor. The vessel had fallen down from the kitchen cabinet. And the entire contents had spilled out creating a big mess. Great, she thought. Just as she had completed her household chores, one more had crept up. Her gaze then shifted towards the culprit behind the spill. He looked at her with eyes which conveyed guilt and naughtiness at the time. Only kids can pull off such an expression without looking fake, she thought. He then spoke up. “Sorry”. She softened up and told him to get out of there and watch some TV. She then silently began cleaning up.

A few years ago, Supriya would have unleashed hell if the same had happened to her. She used to be a girl with a fiery temper. She always used to be the one who used to back answer her teacher. She used to be the first to get the punishment if the teachers found the class to be behaving in an unruly manner. She used to get into fights with boys over trivial issues. Her friends had a nickname for her. “Atom Bomb” she was called. As time went by, it became AB (Generation Y hai bhai. Everything is shortened. Not just clothes.). Actually, the boys called her AB not just considering her temper, but also her looks. She looked good or as the romeos used to say, ekdum pathaaka. Every rose day in college, there used to be a bet on whether anyone would have the guts (and football sized balls) to give her the red rose. If that bet was won, there was another bet. This was on whether the chap would get a 1000 decibel strong scolding or a sound beating.

In her third year, AB met a guy. He was an aloof boy with radical ideas. While others in her class (including her) were busy pursuing CA or CS or getting ready for the CAT, this chap was busy doing extra curricular work with the juniors. He was academically strong (88 % in SSC. Hence the nickname “Crazy 88”. When Kill Bill released a few years later, his friends jokingly told him to take royalty from Tarantino.). Hence lack of intelligence was not the reason for his choice. He had totally different fundas. “College life is for living, not slogging. I have my full life in front of me. No tension.” This was his funda. Also different was his total disinterest in Supriya in a romantic way. While Supriya never craved attention, she was used to it. This boy’s aloofness infuriated her. Maybe this was one of the main reasons why she fell for him.

Rose day came again. The last rose day of her college life. The bets were on again. However this time, kahaani mein twist aa gaya. Supriya gave Crazy 88 the rose. He was shocked. Her entire class was shocked. He just kept staring at her, rose in hand. Slowly he walked off without uttering a word. AB the fiery one, she started sobbing. Maybe for the first time in ages. After what seemed like eternity (actually 15 minutes), she heard the voice of Crazy telling her to open her eyes. She saw him kneeling down in front of her, a bouquet of red roses in hand. She started crying again. He got a little confused. Looking at his confusion, AB’s heart melted even more. She hugged him. Everyone seeing this scene straight out of a twisted Mills and Boons started clapping. Crazy and AB. A couple which could not be odder. It seemed perfect.

Convincing the parents took some effort. Crazy’s lack of complementary degrees (“CA, CS ya MBA to karma chaahiye. Sirf BCom se ghanta kuchch hoga” were her father’s words.) made it difficult. It took all of AB’s negotiating abilities (screaming so hard that the windows almost cracked, crying so much that she got dehydrated, not eating food for a couple of days, etc.) to soften them up. Then came the clincher. It seemed Crazy and AB could not wait for marriage to express their love, well, fully. When the news of the pregnancy reached her parents’ ears, all remaining resistance was broken. AB and Crazy got married even before graduation. AB could not be happier. Crazy started getting doubts.

The marriage and the baby changed Crazy overnight. From the chilled out, happy go lucky person that AB loved, he became responsible and burnt out Not So Crazy. He started hunting for a job. His lack of, you guessed it, complementary degrees meant that he got a low paying job, that too through connections. This wounded his ego. As the years went by and Crazy kept seeing his friends drawing more salary than him, the wound festered. He became reclusive and prone to angry fits. He started blaming his wife and the kid for his misfortune. The early marriage and Chintu were the reason for him taking the job so early, he said once during one of the many quarrels with Supriya. He was hurt inside. And he was hurting his marriage as well.

As Crazy was slogging himself to death and wallowing in self pity, Supriya was concentrating on her studies. The birth of Chintu had stalled her CA preps. However after 2 years, she restarted her studies and through hard work (compounded with house work, as they could not afford a servant) became a CA. She got a nice job in a bank as a risk analyst in the SME sector (as they called it in her bank, SPRG risk analyst). The pay was good, almost equal to what Crazy was earning. She thought that the doubling of the house income would cheer up Crazy. On the contrary, it led to the biggest quarrel. Crazy became, well, crazy. He hollered, “7 years I slog my butt off while you sit in the house. You get to be around Chintu while he barely recognizes me. And now, you get this job and become my equal!!” The male ego was at its ugliest.

Six months had passed since that day. Husband and wife were barely on talking terms. Eight years of a troubled marriage had taken a toll on her. The phataaka had lost her zing. As she went on her haunches cleaning the mess, she wondered whether her marriage had been a serious mistake. Whether the 8 minutes of impulsiveness had led to eight years of nightmares? She contemplated divorce for the first time. Just then, Chintu called out to her. “Aai, come here. The building is on fire.” Supriya went towards her son and her gaze fell on the TV. It was showing the Taj burning. She wondered how this could happen. Then a Breaking News flashed. The terrorist had also struck at the CST. This news hit her hard like a punch. Crazy takes the train till CST, she told herself. She panicked. She tried calling on his mobile. The mobile was unreachable, the operator said. Tears started rolling down her eyes. She then saw the helplines numbers flashing on the TV. She dialed one of them. After what seemed like an eternity, she got a response.

“Hello. May I help you?”
“Yes. My husband normally takes the train till CST. He has not reached home yet.”
“Ohh, I understand. Please tell whether he has any identification with him.”
“Yes. He carries his PAN card and driving license with him always.”
“Any identification marks?”
“A scar on his left cheek.”
“His name?”
“Cra…. sorry, Pendse. Shriram Pendse.”

Note: This was long overdue. And yes, the stories based on 26/11 have not ended.
To read some of my other attempts at short stories, please click here


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Chennai Diary Part 2

As was mentioned in the earlier post, I was on a week long visit to Chennai. Part 2 of the same being recounted here.

Chennai seems to be in the midst of hectic activity. The policemen seemed extra alert, the work on the roads seemed more urgent. One wondered whether the govt. machinery here is perennially alert (a good thing) or something huge was coming up which had led to the big bosses cracking the whip (a “what is so new about this” thing). Turned out that the latter is true. Chennai is hosting a “World Tamil Conference” from the 23rd. Thank God, the trip was to end before this meeting, expected to draw a million participants started. Or else there would have been some real logistical problems.

Day 1 was pretty uneventful. Except for a seemingly routine fire drill which led us and the other occupants of the building out. Or so we thought. Later we came to know that there was a bomb scare due to which we were evacuated. Let me repeat, a bomb scare. And no one cared to tell us till the middle of the damn week.

As I had said in the earlier post and which was further elaborated in one of the comments, I had a not so great experience of Chennai the last time I had been here. It had started badly. I had to deal with a really shady and immoral jackass of a landlord. Then there were those blasted rickshaw drivers (Any traveler’s first perception of a city is formed with his dealings with the first chap he encounters after landing up there. In most cases it is the person manning his/her transport. Considering the lovely ways of the Chennai rick drivers, one can see why Chennai gets a bad name.). Add to that, the fact that I was away from home. Again (This was immediately after my two year MBA course in lovely Kozhikode. Which is really away from aamchi Mumbai).

However this time, things are a little different. I am now older and definitely wiser (not that being wiser than the 23 year old me is a difficult task). There was no jackass landlord to deal with. And unlike last time, there is certainty that I was going to be back in Mumbai in a week. This made me a little more open while appraising the city. And yes, I can say with certainty that it is not a bad place afterall.

For one, the food here is extremely good. Provided you go to the right places. We frequented some really nice places like Cream Centre, Eden Harrisons, etc. The food was great and quantity really good. Heck even the takeout food was serviceable. Chennaiites seem to like their food considering the turnout even during odd hours. That is a positive sign in my book.

The malls are awesome. Spencer Plaza is a really nice place with everything available. Then there is Landmark. Unfortunately I could not go there due to too much work. However there will be a next time. The place also has some historical buildings (The Museum Theatre and Connemara Library complex, The St. George Fort, etc.) which is nice if you are a history buff like me. Again, due to the work, could not check them out. But, again, there will be a next time.

If one goes beyond the language barrier, the people here are nice. Not that they were not 5 years ago. However as said earlier, perceptions once formed (esp. in an immature man’s mind) cannot be changed. Only thing is, do not even think about talking in Hindi here. It is an old issue here what with Hindi becoming the symbol of Aryan – Dravidian conflict that had virtually exploded here post independence when Hindi was proposed as the national language. The debate is complicated with both sides having their arguments. Best thing to do is to respect the point of the people and not act like dolts and confirm the typical North Indian stereotypes that they have in their minds.

I landed in Mumbai on Friday night. The supposedly super efficient Mumbai rickshaw drivers were asking for 300 bucks for a 8 km. ride home. The subsequent haggling made me wonder what would a non Mumbaikar would think of my beloved city if he were to encounter these idiots. This reinforced the point that one should not base your view of a particular place and its people based on a few kamineys. Especially the rickshaw drivers. Sorry Chennai!!!


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A post for the BCCI (after along time)

After God knows how long, a post for the BCCi. In fact am surprised, I still am able to post for them:)

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The trip to Chennai (Part 1)

I am in Chennai on a five day visit currently. Not a vacation. Work related. Ohh, forgot to mention this but I changed jobs last week. Post on my journey at ICICI Bank will also be up soon.

Landed here at around 9 am on Monday. Came out of the airport and realized that the sun may decide to get up from the West, a dog’s tail may straighten and Shreesanth may cease to irritate, but Chennai will always remain hot and save the foreigners the cost of going to a tanning saloon.

I have had a brief tryst with the city of Amma and Kalaignar around five years ago. I was 23, inexperienced and gullible. I hated this city then. I hated the weather, the landlord and most importantly, the bloody rickshaw drivers. These chaps had for display newly installed meters, all shiny and bubble wrapped. However, the drivers considered it as just display items. For a ten minute journey, one had to spend at least 10 minutes more haggling with them on the price at which they deemed it fit for us to have the honour to park our derrieres in their vehicles and let them drive us down to our destinations. This haggling was normally done in a mixture of English, sign language and Rajni style gesticulations. This time, the first two days’ experience with these chaps was surprisingly tame. The negotiations spanned roughly a minute and reasonable prices were quoted and bought down with the highest level of civility. I was wondering whether these people have been tutored to behave politely with travellers. Then today, we had the pleasure of haggling with one driver after we had reached the office for about 7 minutes. Today’s experience was somewhat reassuring. Chennai’s weather has something for company in the “will not change for anything” department.

What has changed though is the traffic. Five years ago, travelling in cars did not take more than 15 minutes irrespective of where you wanted to go within the city from wherever you were situated. This time, I have already been stuck in a couple of jams. Mainly due to road closures. There is a lot of construction going on in the city, at least in the part where I am situated. One of Chennai’s unique aspects was that for a metro, it was known to be a more “sedate” place. This seems to be changing.

One of the very few things I loved about Chennai during my earlier visit here was the Landmark store. Most of my Sundays were spent exploring the store and the thousands of books it “stored”. Sadly, I have had no time to visit it though it is located close to the guesthouse. This needs to be redressed.

Still to come – Part 2 of the Chennai diary wherein I shall comment on the rest couple of days of my stay in the pride of the Tamilians.


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